Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thirty Things

So the other day I came across this button on Pinterest:

Bascially, it's a list of thirty random questions that you answer about yourself. It's suppose to be a month long challenge, but I think I'm going to extend it through the summer. Hopefully I'll have the entire list completed by August when it's time to go back to school.

Here's the full list:

1.   List 20 random facts about yourself.
2.   Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.
3.   Describe your relationship with your parents.
4.   List 10 things you would tell your 16 year-old self, if you could.
5.   What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?
6.   What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?
7.   What is your dream job, and why?
8.   What are 5 passions you have?
9.   List 10 people who have influenced you and describe how.
10. Describe your most embarrasing moment.
11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.
12. Describe a typical day in your current life.
13. Describe 5 weaknesses you have.
14. Describe 5 strengths you have.
15. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?
17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?
18. What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?
19. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.
21. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it first?
22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
23. List your top 5 hobbies and why you love them.
24. Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.
25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?
27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?
28. What is your love language?
29. What do you think people misundertand most about you?
30. List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Whenever I can't think of something to talk about, I'll randomly pull something from the list and answer it. No particular order or anything. Just whatever strikes my fancy. I'm still going to do my other random posts about stuff going on in our lives, but I though this would be a fun little challenge.

Want to join me? Head on over to Hopes and Dreams and snag a button.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Red, White, and Blue

I am so glad it's Friday! Today was the last day of school with students. Year two is officially done! I'm looking forward to relaxing this weekend and spending three days with the hubby.

But I wanted to drop in quickly and share a quick project I worked on last weekend with my mom. My mom is the Lady Auxiliary President of a local VFW. And the VFW is having a Memorial Day ceremony this weekend. Part of the ceremony, since their post is located on a lake, is to lay a wreath (or two or three) in the lake in remembrance of fallen veterans. So, she and I made a wreath.

Supplies were pretty basic: ribbon, styrofoam form, fake flowers. The ribbon was made by someone at Michaels, where all the other supplies were purchased. Here's our finished product:

Obviously the wreath isn't biodegradable, which is a concern my mom had when she bought all of the supplies. But, to make a semi-biodegradable wreath, she was told by the lady at Michaels that it would sink immediately and wouldn't float long enough for the purpose of the ceremony. So, my mom is planning on having someone go out and collect the wreath before it sinks to the bottom of the lake.

Here are a couple more pictures of the wreath before I go.

I hope everyone enjoys their three-day weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cats Meow: Cuddle Bugs

Our cats aren't what you would call lovey-dovey. On the contrary. The oldest would much rather be by left alone to sleep on the top of our gray couch or bathing in the sunlight in our guest bedroom. Our youngest, would rather be on our balcony playing with bugs.

But, every once in a while, we have cats who like to snuggle up next to us on the couch, and even sometimes in our bed. Periwinkle is hard to catch in the act. It's usually late at night and neither one of us really want to get up to grab our camera. Cruz, on the other hand, when he's ready for a little cat nap, whether it be morning, afternoon or evening, he'll find us and curl up on our lap.

We look forward to those rare moments when our solitary cats turn into cuddle bugs. And when they do finally decide to curl up on our laps, we do everything possible not to disturb them and simply soak up the love.

Are you pets cuddle bugs too?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weekend Adventures: Play Ball

Earlier last week we got a text message from the hubby's oldest brother asking us if we would be interested in going to a Tampa Bay Rays game with them on Sunday. For free. Didn't have to ask us twice! And, the cherry on top? The Rays would be playing the Braves! To say that I was excited is an understatement.

We normally only get to see the Braves play if we make a trip to Atlanta, like we did last summer for my birthday. If they come to Florida, they usually play down in Miami, which is just too far for us to travel. (I know, Miami versus Atlanta? Well, we get to stay for free at my brother-in-laws house versus paying for a hotel.) They rarely come to Tampa because the Rays and Braves are in two different leagues. But this past weekend, the stars aligned.

So, we met up at my brother-in-law's house and car pooled down to Tampa for the game. The hubby and I got to ride in the back seat with our nephew sandwiched between us. It was his first baseball game, and he was a little unsure of what it was going to be like, so he was pretty quiet on the trip down. We had a little difficulty finding our assigned parking lot, but once we got into the stadium, everything went really smoothly.

Our seats were fantastic! Both of the above pictures were taken from my cell phone with zoom. I seriously don't think we could have gotten much better seats. We had an unobstructed view of the entire field, and we were close enough to get a pretty good glimpse at home plate and get a feel for the strike zone.

I didn't get any pictures this trip of our food this time around, but I got a personal pizza from Papa Johns and the hubby got a cheeseburger and french fries. We decided to split an unlimited soda to help save money. Eating out at a ball game is expensive! Just for the two of us we spent $28! I can't imagine how much the larger families were spending that day.

And I can't forget to mention that we saw Knightro at the game!  See him up through the crowd? For those who don't know, Knightro is the mascot for UCF (my alma mater). He was part of the "Mascot Games" during one of the breaks in the game. I was pretty surprised and excited to see him there. I should point out that UCF is located in Orlando, about 2 hours away from Tampa Bay/St. Pete. And, there is another state university (USF) really close to the stadium. But, the hubby figured that the Rays just don't put up with any BULL, and decided to invite Knightro instead....  Bulls = USF mascot....funny, right? Ok, maybe not to everyone, but it made me laugh.

The game was amazing! Many times I thought the Braves would lose - the Rays had players on base with 2 outs on more than one occasion. But, they couldn't seem to get those players home. At the end of the game, the Braves won 2-0! This girl and her hubby were happy (I think I've officially converted him to a Braves fan...score! haha).

We might be able to make it out to one more Rays game this season, but we're not 100% on that yet. I'm just glad we were able to see another game this year without having to spend an arm and a leg. Anyone else hitting up the ball parks this summer? Or maybe you prefer another sport?

P.S. Before I go, though it isn't ball related, I wanted to share this picture of my brother-in-law's dog who tried to come home with us after the game. Better luck next time Niko!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe Resolution: Spaghetti and Breadcrumbs

I mentioned in the last installment of RR that I had made two new dishes in one night. So I'm finally back with the second dish that was made that night. 

The original recipe is called Linguine with Garlicky Breadcrumbs, and you can find that recipe here. But the inspiration photo used whole wheat spaghetti, so I decided to go with that. We also made some slight changes to the recipe, but I'll divulge those details as we go through the process of making the pasta.

Step one: Gather your ingredients and start boiling the water. Follow the directions on the package of noodles for the right cooking time.

(please ignore the obnoxious hard water stains on the side of the pot...)

Step two: While the pasta is cooking, mix all of the other ingredients (minus the breadcrumbs) into a little bowl. Since we didn't have garlic cloves, I just used a little bit of garlic powder. And, instead of parsley, I used some Italian seasoning we had in the spice cabinet.

Step three: Once the pasta is done cooking, drain it. Pour the pasta into whatever dish you're going to serve it in. Then, pour the "sauce" onto the pasta and toss. Lastly, add the breadcrumbs and toss the pasta a little more. Now, you're ready to serve. We enjoyed our pasta with our pepperoni stuffed chicken.


This has seriously been the easiest recipe I've done to date for this little resolution of mine. And the flavor was amazing! We substituted pre-made lemon-pepper breadcrumbs rather than making our own breadcrumbs from stale bread; skipping this step made the whole process that much easier. And the combination of the breadcrumbs and the lemon juice was perfect. But, I think the next time we do this recipe, we'll try it with regular breadcrumbs (still pre-made of course) and see how they come out; mainly to see if it works with other types of breadcrumbs. 


Considering both the chicken and pasta had the same lemon-pepper breadcrumbs on them, eating them in the same dinner made the lemon-pepper a little overwhelming. However, I think if it were served on its own, it'd be pretty good. The breadcrumbs gave the pasta an oddly nice little bit of a crunch.

Overall, I think we were both pleasantly surprised by how well the entire meal came out. Both recipes are ones that we'd make up again. I'm seriously dying to make up this pasta recipe - so quick, simple, easy, and full of flavor! What sorts of sauces/dressings do you add to your pasta to change things up? Is there a particular kind of pasta you stick with?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Album Switch

Sunday was not only Mother's Day, it was also our 6 month anniversary. Six months ago, on a Sunday no less, we officially tied the knot. So I thought what better way to celebrate it than by updating our wedding photo album.

But, wait. We've only been married for 6 months. How can it already be time to update our wedding album? Especially considering we just got it in the mail in February? Well, let me show you the album we had.

Pretty plain jane. Nothing to write home about. But this is the album that was included in our photography package, along with 300 prints of our favorite photos. We received the album in the mail at the same time we received our digital prints.

One of the things that I wasn't a fan of was the fact that our portrait photos were all turned sideways to fit into the album. That, and there was a little problem during the shipping process...

Do you see it? The prongs on the inside of the album weren't aligning. So whenever we'd flip through the album the pages would get snagged really easily. More than a little frustrating, if you ask me. So, we kept our eyes peeled for a new wedding album. Requirements: needed to hold a minimum of 300 photos, preferably have slots for both landscape and portrait prints, and absolutely no space for writing - I hate those albums where you write little memories. I wanted my wedding photos to speak for themselves.

Then, the perfect album appeared....

We found this baby at JoAnn Fabrics. It's a cloth bound album that houses at least 400 photos. But my favorite part? The fact that it's a teal/turquoise color, which was one of our wedding colors (the lighting really doesn't do it justice in the picture above). The $20 sale price was enough for us to bring it home.

So, I set myself up at the dining room table. I even had a little help.

First task was to take all of the photos out of the original album. Then I had to figure out which picture was going to be featured in the little window on the front cover. I went with one of our favorites. We love the picture so much we even featured it in our dining room gallery wall.

Then it was time to organize all of the photos into a somewhat chronological order. The hardest part was trying to find enough landscape and portrait pictures to fill up each page.

Like I said, I had a hard time filling all the slots. But, considering we had only 300 photos and there was at least 400 slots, there was bound to be some empty space. At first I thought about adding in our prediction cards that our guests filled out during our reception, but they seem to be currently hiding... But I like the idea of eventually adding them once I find them. That, and maybe adding some small pieces of card stock in our wedding colors with memories from that day.

Another thought I had was to maybe start filling the empty space in the album with photos from our upcoming anniversaries; maybe even some card stock memories from those occasions too. But we'll see. I've got another 6 months before I need to worry about that.

So there you have it, our little wedding album switcheroo. I couldn't be happier with the switch - its so much easier to flip through our pictures from that day now. And the teal color makes me smile every time I see it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weekend Adventures: Mother's Day

I hope all the mommys out there had an amazing time with your families! We spent our Sunday splitting our time between the two mothers. We woke up semi-early for a Sunday (ok, early by our standards) and got up and made our favorite breakfast - cinnamon twists. Once those were done baking, I put the Mother's Day cookies into the oven to cook. These little guys were so cute, I couldn't pass them up when we saw them in the store.

Once the cookies were cool, we hopped in the car and headed towards Orlando for the day. First, we went to the hubby's folks house and spent some time with his dad while his mom was at the gym. Once she came home, she opened up her gift from us and showed us the gift Dan's older brother had sent in the mail. Then, we headed over to my folks house for an afternoon cookout. Well.... we were told to be there about 1 p.m. for lunch, but when we got there at 1:30, the ribs were just being put on the grill. No biggie except that we had to be back at my in-laws at 5 p.m. to head out for dinner. While we waited on food to cook, we gave my mom her gift. Both moms actually got the same thing this year. We split the batch of cookies between the two of them. And, we had ordered two photobooks filled with family pictures from our wedding. Each mother's book was filled with photos from their side of the family.

After the hubby ate some ribs and I had a sandwich (believe it or not, I'm not a BBQ fan), we headed back over to his parents' house and then headed out for dinner. Where did we go?

Yep, we went to the Cheesecake Factory! Definitely a special treat for us considering the only one close to us is all the way in Orlando, over an hour away. The hubby and I split a dinner since the portion sizes are so large. And then we decided to split a dessert too. What you see is their Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cheesecake. Yum!

Mother's Day was a pretty relaxing day, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Who really needs all the pomp and circumstance? It's nice when we get to go back home and visit with everyone. I just hate always having to split our time between the two sides. There are just never enough hours in the day. I hope all of you had just as enjoyable of a day as we did and got to spend it with your mothers and family. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Standardized Fog

I'm in my "end of the year fog." Yes, I know it's only May and it's not technically the end of the calendar year. But, with May comes the end of the school year. The last couple of weeks I've just felt, well, blah, about school. I don't want to crawl out of bed in the morning. I don't really think about what outfit I'm wearing. I don't care what my hair looks like. Right now it just feels like I'm going through the motions.

I remember feeling like this last year, but for some reason, this year feels worse. I think it's because of the overabundance of testing this year. With every state/national standardized test that is completed, the students feel like they are one step closer to summer vacation. And the closer they get to that day, the less motivated they are to do any work. And I feel like their lack of motivation rubs off on me. Why should I put in the effort if they won't give any effort in return? It's seriously like pulling teeth these past couple weeks.

Florida has begun implementing a new way of testing students at the end of the year. In the past, students would take a standardized test known as the FCAT that assesses students on Math & Reading in their 10th grade year. Students were required to pass this test in order to graduate. If they didn't pass it their sophomore year, they could retake it up to (I believe) 4 more times and attempt to earn a passing score. My biggest complaint was that it would test on topics that some students wouldn't be exposed to. For instance, if a student was in remedial math, they would take Algebra I for two years, then take Geometry for a year, followed by another math course their senior year. However, the FCAT would test on Algebra II and even some basic Trigonometry, which those kids wouldn't have been exposed to. It's basically like setting them up for failure. Although they have eliminated the math portion of the FCAT, students are still required to complete the Reading portion of the test so that we can track student progress. That, and it holds us accountable to the No Child Left Behind standards.

Now, students have to take an End Of Course (EOC) exam for certain courses that are required for graduation. These exams are all computer-based now (supposedly to speed up the reporting of results). I actually like the idea of EOCS - testing students on information they learned that year makes a lot more sense than testing them on stuff they learned in previous years, or even on stuff they haven't learned yet. The downside to all of these exams though is that it takes an entire week at our school to test one subject area. And there are 4 subject areas currently using the EOCs: Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, and US History. Another downside is the fact that our school only has 100 computers on campus that can be used for these exams. Meaning, we can only test 100 students at a time (hence why it takes a week to test each subject area). Luckily, our school is relatively small. I can't even imagine what the larger schools are having to go through to get all of the kids processed.

Besides all the time and effort it takes to test all of these kids, probably the worst thing about all of it is when they are requiring to test the kids. Our last day of school is May 25th; other counties in the state finish a week or two behind us. Our first EOC was administered on  April 30th. As I mentioned before, once those kids are down with the test, it's like pulling teeth to get them to do anything. You're talking about a month of time where kids are unmotivated. Not only that, these are suppose to be end of course exams. Well, when you're on a semester block schedule, and you didn't get your kids until January, you're forced to condense all of your course's material into a much shorter time period. I don't see how this can truly be an end of course exam if the course hasn't even ended yet. I think they're trying to turn this into something more like New York's Reagents exams (of which I know very little about). But if I'm not mistaken, those kids come back after school has ended to take their exams. It just doesn't seem fair to the students, or the teachers, to force them to learn/teach all of the required standards in an even shorter amount of time.

Our school has been in testing mode since the middle of April. It started with the Reading FCAT for 9th and 10th graders - that took about a week. Our schedules were totally changed that week - I lost about 6 hours over the course of FCAT testing with my 2nd period students. Then, EOCs started which last for 4 weeks. Oh, and we can't forget the AP testing that's been going on this past week (my juniors are actually taking their exam now as I'm typing this). We still have County Assessment testing and Senior Exams next week, then Final Exams for all of the underclass the last week of May.

I know this is a new process. I know it takes a little while couple years to work out all of the kinks. But, literally, I'm burned out. I'm tired. I have zero motivation. I'm counting down the days until summer vacation right along with my students. And I'm sorry for venting. I know this is temporary, but this month just feels like its dragging.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Adventures: Vineyards & Jazz

Yesterday the hubby and I went to a local vineyard and did a little wine tasting. Yes, we live in Florida. Yes, there are vineyards in Florida. And yes, they produce their own wine.

Normally when people think of American wine their minds immediately go to California. I'll admit, I would think the same thing. But growing up, I always knew that there was a vineyard located in the city of Clermont. We'd pass by the Lakeridge Winery on our way to the turnpike every summer on our trip to Georgia. But I had never actually visited the vineyard before.

Last month, our local news station was doing a feature on the vineyard and their upcoming festival, and the hubby and I thought it'd be fun to go. Only, the festival last month featured blues music, which neither one of us are a big fan of. So, we checked out their website and saw that they had a bunch of festivals throughout the year and decided to wait until there was one that interested us more. This past weekend was the jazz festival, which was a little more up our alley.

Probably the coolest part to me was the fact that they had free tours and tastings (which isn't just a festival thing - they do them daily). I didn't get any pictures of the tour or tasting. But, the tour included a short video of the history of Florida wines and how they found/created the perfect hybrid of grapes to withstand the Florida climate. Then, you walked over the distilling plant and onto an observation deck where you get to overlook the vineyards. I'll be honest, this view wasn't as spectacular as I was hoping it would be (probably why I didn't whip out my camera). The city of Clermont has boomed in the last decade, and rather than the rolling hills and lakes that it use to have, all you see is the rooftops of houses in the distance.

Normally after a tour, you go to their upstairs bar for a proper tasting. However, because of the larger crowds, the tastings were done in a walk-thru style within the distillery. Now, I'm not a wine drinker. At all. I'm not even much of an alcohol drinker. For me to like something, the alcohol needs to be disguised by something fruity or taste more like a soda. But, I figured, what better way to find a wine I like than to go to a free tasting.

image source
Of the ten wines Lakeridge produces, we got to try eight of them. Of those eight, we liked Sunblush, Pink Crescendo, Chablis, and Southern White. The hubby also liked the Cuvee Blanc. I should make clear that although I "liked" all of the ones listed, I don't know if I could ever enjoy an entire glass of it. It might be because I had a ton of different wine flavors on my pallet, but nothing really "stood out" as a hands down favorite to me. If I had to choose one, it'd probably be the Pink Crescendo which is a sparkling wine; almost like a champagne.

After we were done with our tasting, we walked around the gift shop for a little while and debated whether to buy a bottle or not of the hubby's favorite. At first we decided against it, but before we left for the day we ended up going back in there and snagging a bottle of the Chablis.

Then we headed out to the picnic area for some food and music. The setting was really nice; I could see people having weddings out there. I had dressed very comfortably for fear of the 90 degree weather that had been forecasted for the day. But the picnic area was covered with shade trees, so we managed to walk out of there without having to even put sun screen on. The food smelled amazing, though the prices were a little steep. They also sold beer and wine on the grounds, as well as some dessert items to help cool you down. The music was nice, though the hubby said it sounded like the lead singer had had a little too much wine himself before the performance. We didn't stay too long to watch their entire show.

Before we left, we wanted to go and actually look at the grape vines. We had hoped that it would have been included within the tour, but it was not. The vines around the picnic area had been blocked off. Why? Not sure. My assumptions would be that (A) they wanted to keep the large crowds out because (B) the grapes were due to be harvested in about a month and they didn't want any damage done to them.

I did try to get some "up close" pictures using the zoom on my camera.

Overall, we both had a good time. Considering it only cost us a $4 donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, it was a relatively cheap afternoon date. Sure, we purchased a plate for lunch and one bottle of wine (which was only $8 by the way), but you could easily go out to Lakeridge Winery and not spend a ton of money. And, the scenery is really beautiful; it's one of the local hot spots for photographers to do engagement shoots at (here's one of my favorites).

Who would have thought Florida would be considered among America's top producers of wine? What are you guys up to this weekend?


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